Indiana News

House Panel Okays Medicaid Expansion Through Healthy Indiana Plan

But Senate will insist on further negotiations to address concerns

4/1/2013

A House committee has added its endorsement to an expansion of Medicaid, as long as it's on Indiana's terms. But it'll take negotiations with the Senate to finalize the bill.

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House and Senate Republicans have backed Governor Pence in tying Medicaid expansion under the federal health care law to receiving government permission to do it under the state's Healthy Indiana Plan. The House Public Health Committee tacked on an escape hatch, declaring the state can terminate any expansion if the government breaks its funding promises.

But Medicaid Policy and Planning director Pat Casanova and Senate Health Chairwoman Pat Miller (R-Indianapolis) warn that provision could backfire, by eliminating a state right to pull out of the expansion for any other reason. Miller says she won't accept the House bill, but says something needs to pass to set up final negotiations.

The bill cleared the House panel 8-5, with the committee's four Democrats supplying the votes to pass it despite misgivings from some Republicans about the fiscal impact. But Democrats say they want to see the state add coverage for vision and dental checkups. Angola Republican Dennis Zent, a dentist, backed them up on that point, saying dental coverage should be treated as a standard benefit, not an "add-on."

Committee chairman Ed Clere (R-New Albany) says he shares most Republicans' concerns about the health care law itself, but says that debate is over. He says the government's offer to pick up five years of expanded Medicaid costs -- and 90% of the cost after that -- is a chance to bring health coverage to an additional half-million Hoosiers.

The Pence administration has said it can expand HIP even without legislative approval, but Casanova says passing a bill would be "helpful."

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